Posts Tagged ‘finance’

Woke up this morning in a foul mood. Back pain. Crappy weather. Horrible headlines. It’s a bitching kind of day.

After a quick hit of lovely weather, we’re back to gray and damp. I hate March. It’s worse than February. March is like a lot of guys I know, all blustery and puffed out with self-importance and vague promises of nicer times ahead – promises it has no intention of keeping.

God, the news is awful, even leaving aside the ongoing crises in the rest of the world. Poor Natasha Richardson, dead after falling on a beginner’s slope. Oh sure, the fickle Fates take the talented ones young, leaving the crazy, less-talented wanna-bes around to pollute whatever art form they touch. And the coverage ; bordering on (no, scratch that, crossing over into) ghoulish speculation and details about her accident. It can’t possibly be as horrible as the media that followed John Travolta’s son’s death but still!  Are we, the readers, really getting what we want? What we deserve? Oh ugh.

What else? We’ve replaced Bernie Madoff  as villain of the week with the scoundrels who took bonuses at AIG.  Jeeze, shut up about the bonuses. Look, in a fair world, no one would get bonuses or golden parachutes in order to exit the company with enough for several lifetimes as the stock goes down in flames. Bonuses are supposed to be tied to performance, which ought to mean making money for your team without shafting the world economy. Well, it’s been years since that’s happened and where has the outrage been? Corporations went from rewarding the front office guys for bringing in the business to rewarding the front-office guys simply for being front-office guys. My husband was a back-office guy whose department saved his company a lot of money; he got one tiny bonus in fifteen years. Who cared back when the 401K plans were fat and happy?

Speaking of outrage, we’re being played, people. I mean, there’s a lot to be pissed off about but keep in mind the media, particularly the radio shock jocks and their cable alternates are lapping it up because anger is their stock and trade. Nothing like a little fire and brimstone to bring up the ratings. Over in Congress, the blowhards, including those who were never shy about accepting contributions from Wall Street types, are falling all over themselves to express righteous indignation. Frankly, I don’t buy their “heads must roll” routine. With all the speechifying, you wonder if anyone is actually working.

BTW, American people, I share yours fear, concerns and anxieties. But the mob mentality is a real backward step in our supposed evolution. Are we returning to the days of pitchforks and torches?  I mean, finger-pointing and people-bashing are already out of hand , but death threats and demands for the names of the bonus-holders (the better to garrot the family members with piano wire?) and what’s with the heavy artillary aimed at AIG CEO Edward Liddy, who came out of retirement at a buck a year to take this sh-t? A little venting may be in order and we may all have questions for Treasury Secretary Geithner and Senate banking Chairman Dodd (lots of questions), but we’re over the line. This is America at its worst.  Pull back, people.

So I’m thinking I have enough for a column (whoops, sorry, a blog post; I get delusions of grandeur at times) but then I turn to the back of my paper and read Gail Collins’ piece on how pissed off everyone is. As usual, it’s clever, it’s timely, it’s well-research. As usual, she’s written on the very topic I was going to explore. She’s scooped me. Again! What the hell! Fine, Gail has millions of readers and I have maybe sixty-four unique visitors a day but still. She’s always one step ahead of me – always. It’s so unfair. Whaaa! I’d stamp my foot but – ow! – I can’t: my piriformis hurts too much. Serves me right.

(Please note:  I will be back to my regularly scheduled, fair and balanced, voice-of-reason postings next week.  Thank you for your indulgence.)

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Leona Helmsley, who died yesterday, was perfectly in sync with her times. So was her developer husband Harry Helmsley, who, as Gail Collins reports, once answered her question about whether he might devote his later life to good deeds by asking ““What the hell would I want to do that for?” For you kids out there, Leona and Harry ruled during the Eighties, which was the decade of “Dynasty,” “Dallas,” Michael Milken and Madonna in her incarnation as the Material Girl. One terrifically popular movie was “Wall Street”, in which Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko declared, “Greed is good.” During that time, I was a busy but financially struggling young musician. Everyone seemed to be more successful. I wrote a song about it, called “Downwardly Mobile”:

Some folks is on the fast track
I’m still tying my running shoes
Everybody’s got a piece of the good life
I just got the blues
I’m downwardly mobile…

© 1987 all rights reserved

Self-indulgent? Absolutely but then, so was the era, which begs the question: has anything changed? I mean, today we lust after excess even as we pretend to condemn it, whether it’s our obsession with minor talents masquerading as major celebrities, our quest for the next new must-have gadget, or our race to be or have the biggest, best, most winning whatever. Not only does it seem as if “everyone’s a critic” but also a pundit, a taste-maker, an analyst, a producer, a writer, a director, a star. This is, I suppose, the consequence of a truly democratic society. And given how worried Americans seem to be about nearly everything despite our relative good fortune, a little confidence is probably a helpful counterbalance. There does seem to be more interest in politics, in process, in the world at large and in some long-suffering places in particular. The rich are attracting attention to their causes, whether they concern the environment, abused animals or victims of starvation, genocide and natural disasters. Our candidates are more knowledgeable; this time around they seem to know not only the names of the world leaders with whom they interact but also the longitude and latitude of certain regions in the mountains of Afghanistan or the deserts of Iraq. In fact, even though we apparently still need to keep up with the Jones (or the Vinjays or the Ramirezs), we also seem to recognize that there’s an entire world out there. That’s a hopeful sign, as is the fact that shoulder pads have not made a comeback.

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